Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Broken Arrow (1996)

untitledFrom The Independent

As with all of Neil Young’s Nineties output – and at eight or nine LPs, that’s some output – there is a halfway decent album struggling to get out of Broken Arrow, though struggling is perhaps not the right word. This is more of a stagger.

Second only to Dylan’s in loyalty, Neil’s fans will always be lenient as far as his Crazy Horse records are concerned. They’ve experienced a few too many odd and sometimes downright eccentric career detours over the years not to feel heartened by the group’s presence. Usually, this is with good reason – whatever twists and turns Young makes, this is a band reliable and flexible enough to respond sympathetically, compared with, say, the way Pearl Jam just kept on chugging away through the one- dimensional Mirrorball.

Broken Arrow, however, is no Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. Compared to that masterpiece, this is, well, nowhere. Lyrically, it’s Neil’s equivalent to Dylan’s Under the Red Sky, with the most trite of formulations pursued to the point of tedium and beyond. “I’m a little bit high, I’m a little bit low,” he offers in “Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’)” before going on to make similar routine observations along the lines of wrong / right, here / there, up / down, and so on; it doesn’t exactly pinpoint his position with the precision one might have desired. The rest of the songs are little better, but sometimes eerily similar in their sense of balance. “Have you ever been lost, have you ever been found?” he enquires in the quiet acoustic number “Music Arcade”. Well, yes, you think, but you didn’t feel constrained to write a song about it.

Musically, the meat of the album is concentrated in its first three songs, which cleave to the classic Crazy Horse style – long, ragged and (hopefully) glorious electric guitar workouts with warts in plain view. But it’s pretty poor stuff, even by the shaky standards of Young’s recent work. The 10 minutes of “Loose Change” ride a cumbersome Bo Diddley riff, complete with tail-chasing guitar solo. “Slip Away”, the best track, offers a serpentine reverie to match the woman who, in the song, “just slipped away/ like a river flowing down”, while “Big Time” finds Neil claiming to be “still living the dream”. This may be part of the trouble – for most of Broken Arrow, he’s sleepwalking.

February 20, 2013 - Posted by | Neil Young Broken Arrow |

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